Researchers traced patients’ cancers to actinic keratoses, as reported in Cancer.

Actinic keratoses appear to be responsible for basal cell carcinoma, according to a team comprising researchers at Brown University, the Veterans Administration Medical Centers in Providence and Oklahoma City, and others. The findings are highlighted in the current edition of Cancer.

Actinic keratoses are sun-damaged rough patches or lesions on the skin that are often pink and scaly. Scientists had previously been able to connect squamous-cell carcinomas to the lesions but not basal cell carcinomas.

To quantify the risk of progression of actinic keratoses to cancer, the investigators looked at 169 patients with up to six years of follow-up from the VA Medical Center in Oklahoma City. Most had at least one actinic keratosis on their body.

They found that two-thirds of the patients who had developed squamous-cell carcinomas could trace their cancer to actinic keratoses. Additionally, one-third of patients who ended up with basal cell carcinoma could trace their cancers to actinic keratoses.

They also observed that the actinic keratoses come and go, becoming invisible and resurfacing over time. That was a challenge for doctors because the lesions often were not visible during follow-up.

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